Rahul Gandhi, Just Not the Man for the Job

Published: February 23, 2015 18:47 IST
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(Mohd Asim is Senior News Editor, NDTV 24x7)

At a time when the Congress is desperately looking for a phoenix act, Rahul Gandhi has done a vanishing act.

And the timing of this 'chintan' vacation could not  have been worse. The Budget session has just started. The opposition is sharpening its claws to take on the Modi government over the Land Acquisition Ordinance. Land acquisition was Mr Gandhi's pet topic. We all remember his outing to a village near Delhi to meet with farmers, riding pillion on a motorcycle in defiance of then Chief Minister Mayawati, whose administration had declared the area off-limits at the height of its farmer agitations.

Now, there's a farmers' protest happening at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. All this would have provided a great footing to any politician to rise from the proverbial ruins. But what Rahul Gandhi does? He goes away.

It's become official only today, but Rahul Gandhi was always missing in political action. His political stint comes across as a bad arranged marriage. Rahul Gandhi, the reluctant politician as many describe him, was never really in it. A third-term MP, he has spoken twice in Parliament -- the famous Kalavati speech and the 'game-changer' Lokpal quote. Politics is not about giving an annual quote, but a sustained engagement.

A look at the Congress performance and its current state under the leadership of Mr Gandhi tells its own tale. Since 2009 when Rahul Gandhi started playing a larger role and became Congress star campaigner, the party has lost 24 out of 36 state and UT elections. Add to that Lok Sabha drubbing that saw the Grand Old Party tumble to it worst-ever tally.

On the map of India, the Congress is virtually non-existent today. It is in power by itself in Karnataka, Himachal, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur and Arunachal. These six states are home to just over 6% of India's population. Further to this, the party runs coalition governments in Kerala, Uttarakhand and Assam, which is another 6% of the country's population. In all, Congress only rules over just over 12% of the country's 121 crore population. To make a cruel comparision, the population of all the Congress-ruled states combined is less than the population of Uttar Pradesh. By this standard, the Congress is worse off than a regional party today.

It seems Rahul Gandhi has taken the 'Congress-mukt Bharat' mission of Modi-Shah combine more seriously than the duo themselves.

While the voters voted Congress out of power, the party, under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi has booted itself out of the opposition space. Today, it's the regional players like Mamata, Nitish and Arvind Kejriwal who come across as leaders with the appetite to challenge the might of the Modi government. The Congress just seems like it's sleepwalking its way into political oblivion. And the blame must squarely lie on the shoulders of Rahul Gandhi. The voices of dissent are getting louder -which is as it should be, except for this party which pledges undying allegiance to a dynasty, even one that delivers terrible results.

This sorry state of affairs of the Congress should convince at least Mr Gandhi, if not the remaining sycophants, that he is not the man for the job. The party has already lost to a point where there is nothing left to lose. But to start afresh and gain some ground, it needs to do what Chairman Mao famously called "bombard the headquarters". The Gandhis' Congress is a failed party. Rahul Gandhi once said that Congress is an idea. But today this idea itself is in need of a Big Bang.

The Grand Old Party is on a ventilator. Its death will be bad news for democracy. But dynasty is not its lifeline.

Rahul can take a sabbatical to 'reflect' on his future, but doesn't seem to be the best man to script a Congress comeback. And no 'reflection' needed for that.

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